break free.

I know, first hand, that there are a ton of things we as humans latch ourselves on to as if we are leeches, refusing to let go of something until we find that complete satisfaction.  We allow ourselves to be trapped and held captive by things that, in truth, have absolutely NO power over us (if we are saved).  For instance, our old dirt, bad breakups, guilt,  getting drunk, free sex, shame, pornography, even the churchy things like self-righteousness, “living right,” etc.  But in all honesty, there is freedom from these things.  A freedom that can’t be lost.  One that isn’t just felt. One that changes.

I can’t express how deeply sorrowful and deeply compassionate I feel towards people, and even myself, for living in emotional and mental prisons.  Where the prison guards, PORNOGRAPHY, GUILT, and SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS, walk back and forth passed your prison cell with a grimy sneer surfaced on their face because they know that you have absolutely no power to break free from their imprisonment.  All of our energy is invested in the things that are futile … we fall short of believing in the factual and fulfilling Prince of Peace who holds the key to that prison we stay cooped up in, dying.

After a while, those chains get too heavy.  You can make one collect call for the day,  will you choose to call Him?  Will you hear Him out?  Will you allow Him to bail you out, to pay the price for your freedom?  Or will you rest, quietly and comfortably as the days pass by and what left you have of your life begins to seep out of you?  What will you do when you hear Him on the other line saying, “You don’t have to do any work to break free from this bondage you’ve placed yourself in.  I’ll do it for you.  Just listen to me.  Just trust me.  Trust who I am.”  Will you believe?  Will you walk out of that cell and not look back?  What will you do?

Come join us as we venture through the book of Galatians starting June 2nd at Good Hope (3015 N. MacGregor Way) every Thursday night at 7 p.m.  My prayer is that our lives will not just be touched, but that they will change and that we will be freed from the prison we’ve been resting in for all our lives.  There is Someone who has power over all things on this earth.  He loves you so much that He wants to free you from death.  I hope to see you there.

sexy church planting

Renovation Church – Atlanta, GA from Verge Network on Vimeo.

One thing that I love about The City @ Good Hope is the love for missions. I believe it is a proven fact that the gospel is the power of God to save lives, & that The City takes that truth to the nations. Sometimes it seems that our community of unashamed gospel proclaimers are of the few pursuing to impact the culture around them with the Good News of Jesus Christ … but, after watching the video above, I began to realize that our mission & vision is not so isolated.

gospel dispersion.

We do not re-invent the wheel, we merely carry out the great commission. In this season of graduations & summer departures, I am excited about how the gospel will be shared. It is about time that The City begins to disperse and reach others. Truth be told, there are many people in The City who can plant gospel small groups that would impact many. Perhaps we are not ready for planting churches, but we can plant seeds of the gospel in churches that do not preach the gospel.

gospel purpose.

One thing I respect about PT, like Leonce Crump, is that he saw a problem & decided to do something about it. By no means is Good Hope a perfect church & it is in desperate need of the gospel. PT saw a problem & entered the culture to fix it. On one hand there are the old timers who know everything (self-righteous folk). On the other hand, there are liberal college students exploring  their sexuality/identity/personality (prodigal sons & daughters). On top of that, you have the young rambunctious youth whom have no hope in this world (lil’ heathens). The one antidote to give these people is the gospel.

gospel commission.

With such a diverse group of people at Good Hope, DZ Cofield commissioned PT to reach young adults so that they will in turn reach 3rd ward. In some facet, PT planted a church-within-a-church. The City works as a tool to reach those older self-righteous folk who are native “3rd wardians” by being unashamed of their youth & respectful towards them. Reaching out to the community is a big deal & Cuney Homes is a people group in need of some lovin’. The City reaches the young adults by knowing what’s sexy at the moment and not rejecting or embracing it but reconciling it for the sake of the gospel. Also, the college crowd is reached by using technology & creating small groups for the sake of people sharing life together.  The City reaches the lil’ heathens by participating in Youth Church as volunteers for interpersonal small groups.

gospel.

This gospel is so powerful that there is nothing else to talk about. Please don’t confuse the gospel for a method, but embrace it as what the bible says it is. It is of first importance and we are to preach Christ crucified. Jesus died according to the scriptures so that the promise of God to save those who would turn from death and embrace life by faith alone & grace alone. Jesus rose according to the scriptures so that those whom embrace the life he offers will have an advocate in heaven who will never disown them before his Father.

All in all, The City & many other churches are a place where you can believe the gospel, belong to a gospel believing community, and become gospel-centered.

[if you are looking for a gospel-centered church near you check out the gospel coalition’s network guide here.]

this is the UNT christian cypher!

there’s been a lot of “cyphers” droppin’ this semester at various schools around texas, but this cypher is distinctively different. this cypher isn’t promoting self or bragging on possessions, but it is promoting Jesus Christ, who is our possession (and we are his) – and that’s who we boast in!

so sit back and enjoy 10 minutes of God-glorifying hip hop by a bold fellowship of believers at UNT (the DisCyphers) who decide to enter into culture and reconcile what we know as, the cypher!

you still think God can’t use hip hop? i laugh.

Geepers Creepers…Who Opened Your Peepers?

I started reading a new book this week and it prompted me to re-read the story of the fall. It prompted me to re-visit the opening of man’s eyes. The day that man’s eyes were open to the knowledge of good and evil.

In Genesis 2, God commands Adam to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day that he eats of it, he will surely die. In Genesis 3, the serpent slithers his way into the story saying, “You will surely not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

With the promise of becoming God-like, believing they deserved this higher knowledge and higher understanding, they ate.

As sin entered the world, our eyes were opened. Opened to death. They were opened to shame. Adam & Eve looked down for the first time to realize they were naked. “Who told you that you were naked?”

Self-righteousness is as smooth and slippery as a serpent. It sneaks up on you, it strikes deep, its poison is infectious, or it wraps around its prey hoping to restrict life. In self-righteousness we claim to have sight. We claim to see good and evil. Mainly we see ourselves as good and others as evil. And since we are so sure that we can discern between who or what is good and who or what is evil, we begin to judge others. We act harshly in the name of justice, our justice. We reward foolishly, because we only reward those who meet our standards of what is ‘good.’

According to His rich mercy, God did not leave us in this state of blind sight. He sent Jesus Christ, the greater Adam, the perfected Son of Man, to open our eyes to life.  If we are so good at deciphering between good and evil, then how can we not recognize the evil in ourselves? There is none who does good, no not one! (Romans 3:10) There has to be recognition of who we are. We are not the standard of what is good. The recognition of evil in ourselves has got to lead us to seek out a higher goodness in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, God who came down to this earth, was tempted in every way yet maintained righteousness. The recognition of evil in ourselves has got to lead us to seek a higher justice than ourselves.  God is just because in being just He knew that He had to punish sin. Yet instead of punishing those who deserved to be punished, He allowed His son to bear the wrath of the punishment that we had earned. So as it stands in the record books, the payment has been made, and while the originators of the debt were not made to pay, justice was done because the wrong was righted.

But if we were not made to see good and evil what were we meant to see? We were created in His image. Designed for His glory. Engineered to worship Him. We were designed to know His will. The one who lives moment by moment according to the will of God, being lead by the Spirit does not concern himself with who or what is good and who or what is evil, he immerses himself fully into the knowledge of what is God’s will.

Judge not, so that you will not be judged. I pray that we are so unconcerned with shunning evil that we never turn our backs on those deemed evil, remembering that grace reaches all. I pray that we are so ignorant of good works that when we receive our reward in heaven we will respond saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?” Because we will have kept no record of our good deeds, we only strived to conform to the will of the Lord. What a beautiful picture that will be.

it is finished, you workaholics

“And it’s a shame, the way I want to do these things for You, yet don’t even cling to you, take time to sit and glean from You” – Lecrae

Work, work harder?

The day of a workaholic usually begins with the motive of proving their existence based on their ability to produce. The workaholic finds value in the quantity of quality products produced. The idea of rest is foreign & the notion of saying no is nonexistent. They are shackled to their schedule.

Is there hope?

I may be the worst person to write this, thus I’m probably the best person to write this. I am so identified with my work habits that if they die, I die; if they thrive, I live. One day I found myself so lost in thought, so hurt from past mistakes, so burdened by being a Christian leader, so obligated to produce work, so physically fatigued, and so dramatized by the expanse of work to be done that I broke down. It took everything just to hold back the tears in public. But, I found hope in a text message.

The conversation proceeded as such:

what is your purpose for serving?

Not sure, I want to say death in me will mean life for others.

There’s life in Christ not in you …

I was finding my identity in serving Jesus, but not Jesus. When Jesus shouted in victory, “τελείωσε” … it was all perpetually and perfectly completed. “It” being the defeat of sin, satan, death, the need for acceptance, the need to work, the desire to work harder, the shame from failed works, the guilt from failed future works, and the idea of finding identity in your work. Jesus did what was done on the cross, then sat down at the right hand of God. No assistance from man is necessary in Jesus’ saving work, as witnessed by the man on the cross next to him. Jesus said this day he would be with him in paradise apart from anything that he did, should’ve done, would do, or could do.

A helpful thought is that of Mary and Martha. Mary was awarded for sitting at the feet of Jesus gleaning from him, but Martha was told to fall back for thinking she had to work and impress Jesus. Be a Mary, not a Martha.

no work left to do?

The understanding of there being nothing for you to do is radical. We often feel as though we must pay God back, but Jesus said it is finished. Jesus paid it in full. “It” being the just wrath of God towards those who work when he said rest. God desires us to find rest in Christ’s work and see him as all sufficient. You will find so much joy by just sitting there meditating on the completed work in the death and life of Jesus. You will identify with Jesus so much that in his death, you die; in his life, you live.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Stress Over Finals

There’s this sign standing outside the University Center at UH that simply reads:

Friends Don’t Let Friends

Stress Over Finals

I’ve never actually read the rest of the sign, but those words  have stood out to me for the last couple of weeks.

My semester has been a series of personal failures — highlighting new areas where I dramatically fail to meet the standard of “passable” let alone “perfect”. And these last couple weeks of the semester have been particularly stressful. Faced with the consequences of my own laziness and disobedience, I was absolutely overwhelmed and it was hard not to completely give in to depression.

But God:

He showed Himself to be Himself — again.

He sent a friend: a lovely young lady I’ve know since high school. We go to different schools now, but we keep in touch (or try).

She called me as I was sinking into the mire and just prayed with me. She reminded me of the goodness of the Lord and at the perfect timing sent this text:

“‘But YOU, O LORD are a GOD merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’ – Psalm 86:15

HE isn’t just loving and faithful! GOD is “abounding in” love & faithfulness, in how faithful & loving HE is!!

Holy crap!! That’s awesome!!”

She reminded me of who our God is. She pulled up a text describing His character, the nature of His being. The comfort that came was amazing. The God who created the universe, who is so just that He will let no sin go unpunished, who paints with the weather, and sculpts in galaxies — He is also rich! in love and faithfulness. He is so much more than we ever can know or remember Him to be.  And in the hours that I struggled to wade through the daunting tasks set before me, this knowledge was absolutely restorative.

Well, tonight I got to remind her — and myself — of what this masterful and gracious and just God has done.

I sent her a text just to see what was going on — and she called me, the weight of stress and pressure to succeed burdened her voice. Amid her series of finals and marathon study sessions she was feeling discouraged. She was studying diligently and working hard, but it seemed like it just wasn’t enough.

So, I reminded her of the instructions she had given me last week – “When you start to feel stressed, just give it to God,” and then we prayed. And as we prayed I remembered:

Jesus Christ, the God-man, who reconciled us back to the Father, experienced stress. He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane and sweat blood as the fate of billions fell upon His shoulders. In a matter of hours He would face the intolerable on behalf of the intolerable and He would face it alone. Yet He conquered. He successfully took the punishment for the sins of all who believe, and forever removed the sting and victory of death. He rose victoriously, never to die again, and to bring new life to the world.

Our God – He’s not a God who sits removed and is not familiar with the experiences of those who serve Him. No.

Our God walked among us and suffered for us. He can relate to us – and He cares. He cares.

As your friend, during this time of finals, I pray that you come into a knowledge of Jesus Christ and totally trust in Him. For your everything. For your everything.

how should we respond to osama bin laden’s death?

I decided to tackle this because i know it’s a tough and popular topic that will warrant discussion and edify the body, all while illuminating God’s justice, Christ’s death, & His grace.

Photo by Getty Images.

how should we respond to the death of osama bin laden? honestly, i can’t answer that question with a definite action, but i feel comfortable in answering the question, “before i react, what should i think of in response to the death of osama bin laden?

@2live4him tweets, “Osama got what he deserved, but before you start shouting, what if you got what you deserved?”

@pngwolo tweets, “According to God, I and Bin Laden deserve to be bunk buddies in Hell’s Oven. Rom. 3:10-19.”

proverb 28:5 reads “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.”

proverb 24:17 reads “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad … ”

proverb 11:10 reads “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.”

@2live4him prompts us to, before shouting over osama bin laden’s death, think of how it would be if we got what we deserved. Nat, knowingly or unknowingly, is addressing someone already in the wrong, for they are rejoicing at the sole fact that osama is dead, and from a vengeful view. the only person’s death we should rejoice over is Jesus (because He died for us), and that doesn’t break proverbs 24:17, because Jesus (who we were once enemies of) is not in a position of failure anymore; He is at the right hand of God (hebrews 1).

@pngwolo prompts us to look at the sinful state of osama bin laden and ourselves – which are the same. in God’s eyes, the only true eyes, eric michael ward and osama bin laden deserve to be bunk buddies in hell. sidenote: hell is such a lonely place (since we’ll be without God forever) that osama bin laden and i can be bunk buddies and not even know it because there is no community outside of God. PT’s tweets prompt me and others to see that we are no better than osama bin laden, and that we have sinned against God and deserve to be sniped by a bullet of eternal proportion from God’s golden gun (2 Thess 1). God’s righteous judgment is only right because His justice is just.

now, i don’t think we should be mad at someone not responding like us. the issue is deeper than celebration, but of the heart. some believe they are rejoicing in justice, but could be rejoicing in vengeance, which i agree is “contrary to the gospel.” see, most of us (christian or not), rejoice in the fact that bin laden has been killed, but not at the fact that it points to justice – which should ultimately point back to God, the justifier (it sounds like we can’t separate the two, but we can and do), being just and sniping Jesus instead of us. it sounds small when first read but that’s a ginormous [sic] problem. why? see, death & justice are conjoined twins, but some of us want to focus on just 1 head and ignore the other, which leads to either hyper-_____________ (insert view) or a mind controlled by vengeance.

i believe the gospel of Jesus Christ demands we focus on both death & justice, in addition to grace, not either or. those in Christ understand justice, we understand death (we’ll continue to grow in that understanding), and we view the two through a lens of grace. Christ’s death on the cross is something we rejoice over. why? because it should have been us on the cross! and because He rose! that’s grace! now, we rejoice in this because God’s plate of justice which was specifically prepared for you and i … Christ ate it … while He was on the cross! that’s grace by justice!

how should we respond? we should think of Jesus in all things before we react in anything, and that hopefully results in worshipping God. i rejoice at the fact that justice was served once and for all for me because Jesus became my due justice for me on the cross (2 cor 5:21). i can’t rejoice in Osama bin laden’s death, well, because he isn’t Christ and his death wasn’t for my atonement. i can’t rejoice in any man dying and not knowing Christ – because it seems by his lifestyle and devout belief that osama bin laden is away from God’s goodness: hell. that is no reason to rejoice. ever. bin laden’s death actually reminds me of the urgency to exalt Christ’s finished work since there are people dying without Christ as you read this blog. @2live4him & @pngwolo’s tweets prompt me to rejoice in the grace poured on my sinful self, as well as the death and the justice demanded by God, that I escaped because of Jesus. God the Son’s gracious death saved me (all grace). it’s weird i know, but i simultaneously rejoice in the picture of God’s justice, Christ’s death, and the subsequent grace – simultaneously. honestly, i can’t think of 1 and not the other.

what matters more? how someone responds to the death of osama bin laden, or how someone responds to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? let’s not eliminate either side because they both matter, but which really matters more – if one indeed matters more? can we view them apart from each other? i think the latter will effect the former. you? let’s talk.

here is how Francis Chan responds.

Toe to Toe in the Ring

It’s arguable which was greater, Muhammad Ali’s fists or Ali’s mouth. His trash talk was epic, it rhymed, it was dramatic, he name dropped, and most of all, he backed it up with colossal fists. His fighting became legendary and he was coined (mostly by himself) as ‘the greatest.’

I went through a week where I felt I was going toe to toe with The Greatest, the Divine Greatest. Let’s just say I had issued somewhat of a challenge.  And I expected Him to come at me like ‘the greatest’ would have. I was waiting for the trash talk, I was ready for taunting, I was ready for Him to drop me. With a challenge like this, I expected to get knocked out.

Life had been feeling like a fight lately. Not just for me, but for everyone around me, everyone around me seemed to be dealing with some sort of struggle in their lives, some sort of fight. So as we made our way to the ring I decided if He wasn’t in the taunting mood, I would get the ball rolling. ‘Don’t you wanna just knock me out? Yeah good things are still happening, I have Your peace and Your joy, but I’m still fighting. I’m gonna stumble, is that what You want? How bout I let it all fall to pieces? I have Your eternal satisfaction, but what if I told You I wanted something right now, something temporarily satisfying right now? What are you gonna do about it?’

I noticed He wasn’t putting His gloves on. ‘I told you to wait for Me, that I would show you that I am The Greatest, but not like this.’

There’s a span of Psalms from about the 27th Psalm through the 37th and even into the 52nd Psalm where the word ‘wait’ is used too many times for us not to notice it. David is the author of a lot of these Psalms, and looking back on his life, David is definitely someone who learned to wait on the Lord. And all the while he waited, David fought. He’d faced lions and bears in the field, he’d even fought a giant named Goliath. He was a warrior, slaying his ‘tens of thousands.’ He was anointed and chosen by God as the rightful king of Israel, yet because Saul the current king pursued David with the intent of killing him, He was forced into hiding. He lived in a cave, sneaking around, living amongst Philistines as a servant to their king and fighting in their land. He was always fighting. David was presented with more than one opportunity to kill Saul, yet even when the chance to do evil was right in front of his eyes, he held back. He waited for the Lord, knowing that when the time was right, the Lord would be faithful to him and he would be given his kingdom.

In the Psalms, the word wait seems to be tied to faith. To wait on someone, implies to be at their call in order to do their will, to wait for their direction. There’s a sense of Lordship. To wait for direction is to keep your ears ready believing that in due time a word will be spoken. To wait for someone is to remain steadfast in one place, believing that they are going to return.

I am fighting, I know I am fighting. And because of the faith that I have put in Jesus Christ, I am His chosen, an heir, you could even say an anointed one, but the kingdom has not fully manifested itself… so will I wait?

In the haze of the fight when I can’t hear anything, will I be steadfast in His word, believing that if I wait, He will speak. In my weak point in the fight, will I hold to righteousness, waiting for His strength, believing that I will attain His perfection when He returns. Will I wait on Him everyday ready to do His will even in the midst of battle, believing that He is my reward.

By the grace of God, I never made it to the ring that day. God is The Greatest, not because of the size of His fists or the level of His trash talk, but because of the size of His faithfulness. Because of the manner in which He backs His claim to faithfulness up. I had come to a point where I was struggling in my waiting, but I have a God who has always waited on me and even when I had dang near asked Him to stop being faithful to me, to stop keeping me and let me get a little beat up, He didn’t do it.  His only reply was ‘I am faithful.’ What else can He be?  For the believer there is nowhere else to turn, there is nothing else to lean on but His faithfulness. Turn to sin? He killed it in my life. Turn to sorrow? There’s too much joy in simply knowing Him. He took all of my suffering on the cross.  Let the anxiety of life consume me? He keeps on working it all out for my good. And He did and does all of these things because I’m so good at waiting for Him? No, but because He is faithful. God doesn’t want to fight with us, He longs to fight for us and through us. This isn’t even our battle. History has never recorded a fighter being K.O.’d before even making it to the ring. But God’s love is so piercing and humbling, it will lay you out. It’s supernatural. Great. Great. Great is thy faithfulness towards me.

when God was absent, part II

The greatest lesson learned when I didn’t feel God was that I never truly asked for the Holy Spirit’s help. Remember in Part 1 I was scared that my sin was more powerful than the Spirit residing in me so I wouldn’t pray in fear of being let down?

I asked for forgiveness & the power to persevere, but I didn’t ask Him to take over. I wasted time thinking of the right prayer, but the right prayer is the one that seeks to help others be better than yourself. When I began asking God to seek me to seek them, humble me to humble them, forgive me to forgive them, & rest in me to show them rest … is when things started changing.

I saw how flawed I was & I didn’t want people to be like me. I remember thinking about younger people in The City like Temi, Chloe, Taylor, Prince, Will, Rodrick, & many others who are young & eager to learn of God. Each of them are far more humble & more educated about the gospel of grace than I could have ever hoped to be at that age. I began to pray to God that they would not go through these seasons of drought that I experience.

Then a message came to mind from Tim Keller in which I heard him say something like, “absence is proof of God’s presence“. I didn’t get it until I truly thought about it.

In order to feel God’s absence, I had to have felt God in the first place.

Being that Jesus gave the decree that he would be with us until the end of the ages & that the Spirit that lives in us is always available & the Father is our ever-present help I started to realize that I am not alone. Absence serves as a bridge until your next encounter with God. Not an encounter in the sense that you will run into Him again but until you realize (repent) that He is with you if you place faith in the facts of Jesus’ exchangeable perfect life, substutionary death, & life giving resurrection.

Charles Spurgeon puts the cure & prevention for spiritual drought in these ways:

  1. Confess our unworthiness. The Lord might justly have withheld his grace from us.
  2. Acknowledge our dependence upon the heavenly showers of spiritual influence.
  3. Pray incessantly, till, like Elijah, we bring down the rain.
  4. Look alone to Jesus. “He shall come down like rain.”
  5. Value the least sign of grace, watching for it as the prophet did from the top of Carmel, till he saw the little cloud arise from the sea.
  6. Use the blessing more diligently when it returns, bringing forth fruit to God.